Here at CPLA we encourage our counselors to write Stories of Hope at the end of each school year. These stories consist of a positive experience that a counselor has had with a student client. The counselors change the name of the student to ensure confidentiality. Below we share a few of our most recent moving Stories of Hope. We hope they will provide insight into the impact that CPLA has on our students. *All names of students have been changed to maintain confidentiality*
Helping Emma Find a Safe Place
When first working with Emma, I had been introduced to a child barely in her double digits who had spent most of it seeing abuse in the home. Emma not only embodied resilience but also grew as an individual in our counseling process. Continuously given positive regard for advocating for herself and requesting services herself, Emma worked hard this year to become excited and hopeful about her future- one where she would feel safe and excited for what life brought on for her. Most sessions were spent weeping about what life was like in the present. It was not easy by any means. Forget about middle school gossip and math. Social worker visits, low self-worth, and fear for her and her mom’s safety were her daily thoughts. This is not only a story of hope, but one of resilience.
Working with Emma meant focusing on her amazing strength and how she can cope with these difficult situations. When sharing how passionate she is about art, we worked to find an art school that she can attend in the future and instill hope about a life that she can achieve. After social workers and even police visits, Emma and her mom finally left their unsafe environment. Though there is uncertainty regarding their next step, Emma joined our final session sobbing. She was finally happily sobbing. The tears shed the whole year were out of fear and sadness. In the last session, she reported how she doesn’t have to be scared for her safety anymore. She shed tears of joy and reminded me why I chose to do what I do. She inspires me to fight on, she teaches me resilience. Working with Emma is an honor I will never forget. Our work demonstrated to me how the opportunity given by CPLA can help make a difference in the life of a child and for that, I will be forever grateful.
Daniella Gains the Ability to Trust
Daniella was in 5th grade and referred to me due to experiencing depressive symptoms. Their mom told me that they used to smile all the time but that she had not seen them smile in a long time. When I met Daniella at the door of my room, they walked in quietly and started to draw immediately. They were very talented. I noticed that Daniella's hair was unwashed and in their face. Later I found out from Daniella's mom that they did not like to bathe or change their underclothes.
After months of seeing Daniella, they told me that they wanted to run away to another country with their friend and become an animator. There had been something going on at home that they didn't want to talk about. After lightly pressing them about what was happening at home, they came out to me as transgender. I am the first adult that they have ever told, and the third person that they have ever told. I felt grateful and proud of them for trusting me. I also felt proud of myself for creating such a space for them to be themselves, especially in an environment that isn't as welcoming as it should be. Daniella never told me exactly what had happened at home, but I trust that together we have planted a seed during our time in therapy that will later show them that there is someone out there that they can trust. I trust that when they are ready, they will share what has happened at home. During our last session, we wrote cards to each other as a way of saying goodbye. In their card was a person in a field waving goodbye with the sun smiling. Inside is written, "It was nice talking about that thing that I hid for a long time with you."
Fostering Gabrielle's Confidence
When I first met Gabrielle, her hands were raw and partially hidden under her sweater. Her eyes were fixed off to the right on the floor with her posture bent forward and arms crossed. I noticed she sat alone at recess and lunch trying to be as invisible as possible. Gabrielle is a survivor of neglect and is currently part of the foster system as her family attempts to heal and move forward. Slowly, over the course of some weeks, she came to trust me, to open up and share, and allow herself to believe she was worthy of somebody's care and attention. Together, we tackled her repetitive behaviors, her low self-esteem, her social anxiety, and the stubborn thought that she was somehow not "good enough" just as she was. Seven months later, her failing grades have turned to straight. Her OCD-like behaviors have fallen away, and she reports high self-esteem and enough confidence that she is running for student council. She also takes huge personal risks now in going to concerts, advocating for herself with teachers, and drawing boundaries with others when she needs to take care of herself.
The other day I went out to say hello to some of the students at lunch and saw her standing in the middle of a group of friends, talking, laughing, and looking so sure of herself. She looked like any other kid on the playground, her hands no longer raw, and her heart starting to heal. I got a little choked up at the simplicity of it- knowing that moment speaks a thousand words about the courage she has shown and just how far she has come. Gabrielle is one of those clients I will never forget and is a reminder that if we just listen and support, we can help kids find their way to a better place. Gabrielle could change her path all along. She just needed somebody who could help her see that she deserved to stand out there in the sunshine surrounded by love and friends.